WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping won the kind of reception in the United States that suggests Washington sees his rise as a chance to narrow economic and political rifts.

Converting the warm mood music brought by Xi into substantively improved Sino-U.S. ties, however, will demand concessions that both sides are likely to resist.

Vice President Xi is virtually sure to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s president in just over a year, and the mix of flattering attention and impatient demands that greeted Xi in the United States showed the Obama administration wants to make sure he enters the top job with a firm grasp of what Washington wants.

“China is no different from other countries in the sense that when you have the same leader hanging on, it’s more difficult to change established policy, but China now has a situation where you can make adjustments in policy because of a pattern of regular turn-over,” said J. Stapleton Roy, who was the U.S. ambassador in Beijing from 1991 to 1995.

“It does not necessarily make a big difference, but every time you change a leader, you have greater potential for change of policies,” said Roy, who directs the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

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